A person can be manipulated with beautiful pictures


Peo­ple love art. They study paint­ings for mean­ing and often find them incred­i­bly beau­ti­ful. But, as stud­ies show, the per­cep­tion of beau­ty is not only a rel­a­tive phe­nom­e­non, but also very change­able.

A new study from the uni­ver­si­ties of Syd­ney and Flori­da shows that our per­cep­tion of a work of art is based on what we’ve seen before.

Experiment with painting

Sci­en­tists showed 24 sub­jects a sequence of 40 paint­ings depict­ing land­scapes and still lifes. Test par­tic­i­pants had to rate the attrac­tive­ness of each paint­ing using an elec­tron­ic slid­er in the app. The task seems sim­ple, but in fact it was a trick exper­i­ment. Sci­en­tists tried to find out not how attrac­tive this or that pic­ture is, but whether the per­cep­tion of beau­ty depends on the order in which the pic­tures are shown.

Each of the sub­jects was shown the entire sequence of pic­tures 20 times. At the same time, the order of the images changed all the time. Ini­tial­ly, it was assumed that the exper­i­ment would reveal some kind of “con­trast” effect. That is, after a series of paint­ings that the sub­ject did not like, an attrac­tive work will look even more beau­ti­ful. But every­thing turned out to be the oppo­site.

The study showed that paint­ings that were shown after tru­ly attrac­tive works of art seemed more beau­ti­ful to peo­ple.

Sci­en­tists call this the ser­i­al addic­tion effect. There is a sys­temic bias towards recent past expe­ri­ence. Sim­ply put, while study­ing some­thing new, peo­ple con­tin­ue “by iner­tia” to expe­ri­ence those emo­tions that they expe­ri­enced short­ly before. And if they were in high spir­its, then every­thing seems more attrac­tive to them.

Put it into practice

The results of this exper­i­ment can be very use­ful, not only for sci­ence, but in gen­er­al for all spheres of human activ­i­ty. After all, the effect of ser­i­al addic­tion oper­ates every­where. If you want some­thing to feel bet­ter, show it after some­thing real­ly good.

You can use this knowl­edge when prepar­ing pre­sen­ta­tions, design­ing, dec­o­rat­ing your home — in gen­er­al, any­where you need to cre­ate a good impres­sion. Con­trast does­n’t work. But the grad­ual build-up of pos­i­tive impres­sions — on the con­trary, pro­vides the effect of accu­mu­la­tion of pos­i­tive emo­tions.

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